Monday, February 13, 2006

The Erosion of Europe

Fareed Zakaria reports:
If present trends continue, the chief economist at the OECD argues, in 20 years the average U.S. citizen will be twice as rich as the average Frenchman or German. (Britain is an exception on most of these measures, lying somewhere between Continental Europe and the U.S.)

People have argued that Europeans simply value leisure more and, as a result, are poorer but have a better quality of life. That's fine if you're taking a 10 percent pay cut and choosing to have longer lunches and vacations. But if you're only half as well off as the U.S., that will translate into poorer health care and education, diminished access to all kinds of goods and services, and a lower quality of life. Two Swedish researchers, Frederik Bergstrom and Robert Gidehag, note in a monograph published last year that "40 percent of Swedish households would rank as low-income households in the U.S." In many European countries, the percentage would be even greater.

The Welfare State political economy means a lower standard of living over time, but politicians don't mind because they have more to do.